Are Asbestos Shingles Dangerous?

A sign that says "danger asbestos."

If you have asbestos shingles and are wondering if they are a safety concern for you and your family, it is important to know not just whether the shingles contain asbestos, but their condition. If they are not in good condition, if they seem to be disintegrating, are beginning to fall apart or crack, they can potentially expel asbestos fibers which can be a serious — even deadly — health risk to you and your family.

Past Usage of Asbestos

Since 1989 the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has prohibited the use of asbestos in the United States. Before that, asbestos products were used in the construction of homes in many ways including in shingles, siding, insulation, floor tiles, and cement. Asbestos was used because it was believed to strengthen the products in which the asbestos was included, making these products more durable and long-lasting.

At that time, nothing was known about the dangers of using asbestos, a material made from six different fibrous minerals: chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite.

Dangers of Decomposing Asbestos

Asbestos products, as they begin to age and break down, can create a powdery and fibrous dust. This dust can then become airborne and can be inhaled. Inhalation of asbestos can occur without an individual being aware they have inhaled these fibers. Once the fibers are inhaled, they can incubate for several years until they cause serious and even deadly cancers. These include cancer of the stomach , intestines, and rectum, and a very deadly lung cancer called mesothelioma. Inhalation of asbestos can also cause other long-term breathing problems, scarred lungs, and even heart failure.

Hire Experienced Contractors

If you have shingles that contain asbestos, and if these shingles are beginning to deteriorate or fall apart, you should have them removed. Rather than attempt to do the removal yourself, be safe and hire experienced professionals to do the job.

In order to remove the shingles yourself, you would need approval from the EPA. Removing the shingles yourself would be highly complicated and difficult to do safely. It would be better to have an authorized contractor perform the removal for you. If cost is an issue, have an authorized contractor remove the old shingles and install the new ones yourself. An authorized contractor is better equipped to do the removal as they have been trained in a safe removal process. An authorized contractor will also have the proper protective removal equipment, tools, and clothing.

Local Laws Protecting Against Asbestos Disposal

Wastewater, disposable materials used in the removal process, and the removed shingles must be disposed of in a precise manner for which an authorized contractor is trained. This disposal is not an easy task, as the shingles must be removed to authorized asbestos disposal locations and disposed of there in accordance with local laws.